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When the past is present…


‘This Is Our Selma’: NC’s Fight for Voting Rights

By Danielle C. Belton,

Monday marks the start of a pivotal voting-rights trial in North Carolina. On the line? Access to the ballot box for tens of thousands of African-American voters.


Calling the trial its “Selma,” referencing the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1964 in Alabama, the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP is taking Gov. Pat McCrory to court for signing into law what many have called one of the strictest voting laws passed in the country.

Back in 2013—in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Shelby v. Holder decision, which gutted portions of the Voting Rights Act—the North Carolina Legislature passed H.B. 589, a voter-suppression law that drastically changed or wiped out many provisions meant to encourage voter turnout and provide easier access to the ballot box. The law instituted a voter-ID requirement, shortened early voting by a week, got rid of same-day registration, expanded the state’s ability to challenge voters, killed a preregistration program for 16- and 17-year-olds, and disallowed the counting of provisional ballots cast out-of-precinct, among other changes.

Critics say that these restrictions disproportionately affect African Americans. According to state data, back in 2012, 70 percent of black North Carolina voters used early voting, and while blacks only make up about 22 percent of the voting population in the state, they accounted for 41 percent of voters who took advantage of same-day registration. African Americans also made up 30 percent of those who cast ballots out-of-precinct.

Last year, these laws directly impacted the midterm elections, with reports of between30,000 and 50,000 being ineligible to vote because of the law…

In its charge against H.B. 589, the North Carolina NAACP is being represented by attorneys with racial-justice nonprofit Advancement Project, the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, and lawyers Irving Joyner and Adam Stein. They’re charging that the law violates the 14th and 15th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, has said repeatedly of the state’s voting-rights case: “This is our Selma.”

“North Carolina was the first state to pass a restrictive voting law after the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act in 2013, and it is the worst voter-suppression law the country has seen since 1965,” Barber said in a July 8 press release. “The people of North Carolina are standing up—in the courts and the streets—because we refuse to accept the revival of Jim Crow tactics used to block access to the ballot for African-American and Latino voters.”…

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NAACP Ends 15-Year Boycott Of South Carolina

By Ashley Alman, the Huffington Post

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) announced Saturday the end to its 15-year economic boycott of the state of South Carolina.

The Confederate battle flag is lowered for the last time at the Statehouse in Columbia, SC.

The Confederate battle flag is lowered for the last time at the Statehouse in Columbia, SC.

The NAACP National Board of Directors voted in an emergency resolution on Saturday to end the boycott.

The boycott of the state was initiated in 2000, when the Confederate flag was moved from atop the State House to a Confederate memorial on the Capitol grounds. The boycott was also observed by the NCAA and United Auto Workers, among other groups. The NAACP said Thursday that the boycott would be brought to a vote in an emergency resolution after the South Carolina state legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds. The state legislature took up the issue after a tragic shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina left 9 dead, reigniting impassioned opposition to the flag’s presence at the Capitol.

The NCAA followed suit Thursday, saying it would lift its boycott on the state, which prevented South Carolina from hosting championships.

NAACP President Cornell William Brooks praised the state’s action in a Thursday statement, saying their decision “will make South Carolina more welcoming and affirming of all people irrespective of their skin color.”…

The flag was removed from the Capitol grounds Friday.

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Memphis, Tenn., Votes to Exhume Body of Confederate General, KKK Leader Buried in City Park

By Breanna Edwards,

Memphis, Tenn., city leaders unanimously voted on Tuesday night to exhume the body of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a former Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader who is buried in the city’s Health Sciences Park, and move him to a private cemetery, Fusion reports. According to the report, the City Council also voted to move his wife’s body from the park and to take down the statue of Forrest sitting on a horse that currently stands in the park…

Statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in Health Sciences Park, Memphis TN

Statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in Health Sciences Park, Memphis TN

“Nathan Bedford Forrest is a symbol of bigotry and racism, and those symbols have no place on public property,” council Chairman Myron Lowery told Fusion. “What we’re doing here in Memphis is no different from what’s happening across the country.”

Forrest was a Memphis native who made his wealth in the slave trade and gained name recognition as a general for the Confederate Army. He later became the KKK’s first Grand Wizard in 1868 but eventually withdrew from the notorious hate group.

As the news site notes, a Tennessee court and the Tennessee Historical Commission still have to approve the removal of the graves, and not everyone is thrilled with the idea.

“I think it’s disgusting that people use the shooting in Charleston and use those victims to forward their own agenda and join this anti-Confederate hysteria that’s going on,” Sons of the Confederate Veterans spokesman Lee Millar told local news station WREG.

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Texas officials: Schools should teach that slavery was ‘side issue’ to Civil War

By Emma Brown, the Washington Post

Five million public school students in Texas will begin using new social studies textbooks this fall based on state academic standards that barely address racial segregation. The state’s guidelines for teaching American history also do not mention the Ku Klux Klan or Jim Crow laws.


And when it comes to the Civil War, children are supposed to learn that the conflict was caused by “sectionalism, states’ rights and slavery” — written deliberately in that order to telegraph slavery’s secondary role in driving the conflict, according to some members of the state board of education.

Slavery was a “side issue to the Civil War,” said Pat Hardy, a Republican board member, when the board adopted the standards in 2010. “There would be those who would say the reason for the Civil War was over slavery. No. It was over states’ rights.”…

If teaching history is how society shows younger generations who they are and where they came from, the Civil War presents unique challenges, especially because of the fundamental differences in the way the cause of the war is perceived 150 years after its last battle.

Nowhere is the rejection of slavery’s central role more apparent than in Texas, where elected members of the state board of education revised state social studies standards in 2010 to correct for what they said was a liberal slant.

Students in Texas are required to read the speech Jefferson Davis gave when he was inaugurated president of the Confederate States of America, an address that does not mention slavery. But students are not required to read a famous speech by Alexander Stephens, Davis’s vice president, in which he explained that the South’s desire to preserve slavery was the cornerstone of its new government and “the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.”…

Historians acknowledge that disagreements over states’ rights played a role in the Civil War. But the states’ rights issue was inseparable from slavery, they say: The right that states in the South were seeking to protect, after all, was the right to buy and sell people….

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The American Revolution was not a whites-only war

By Colbert I. King, the Washington Post

There are aspects of the American Revolution that are neither well known nor appreciated.

…the American Revolution, although not fought on behalf of slaves, was not a whites-only undertaking.


The political freedom resulting from the war was earned on battlefields at Lexington and Concord, at the Battle of Bunker Hill and beyond, with the help of black soldiers, both free and enslaved, who fought with the Continental Army.

The Revolutionary War victory was every bit theirs, as well.

At least 20 blacks were among the ranks of the rebels when the British launched their attack on the American position outside Boston in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Peter Salem, born a slave in Framingham, Mass., earned his stripes as a minuteman fighting at Concord and later at Bunker Hill. Salem is credited with firing the shot that killed British Maj. John Pitcairn, who led the Redcoats when they attacked at Lexington.

Salem fought in other battles, and after the war, lived in a cabin and worked as a cane weaver. He died in a Framingham poorhouse in 1862. Twenty years later, the town erected a monument in his honor.

Former slave Salem Poor was also at the Battle of Bunker Hill. His service drew the praise of 14 officers who petitioned the Massachusetts legislature to grant him a reward… It was not to be. Poor died in a Boston shelter for the homeless in 1802.

Saul Matthews was a slave when he enlisted as a soldier in the Virginia militia, according to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Matthews served as a spy, undertaking missions into British camps to collect information on troop positions and movements. He, too, drew praise from top leaders of the Revolution.

When the war ended, Matthews was returned to slavery for nearly 10 years. He petitioned the Virginia General Assembly for his freedom. It was granted in 1792.

The 1st Rhode Island Regiment, called the “Black Regiment” because of its large number of African American soldiers, engaged in five years of fighting in New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

Historical reenactment: militia at Colonial Williamsburg

Historical reenactment: militia at Colonial Williamsburg

After the war, as the Army’s official Web site reports, some black soldiers, like those who served in the 1st Rhode Island, went on to live as freed men. However, many others, after having fought for freedom, were returned to slavery…

The nation should salute them, too.

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Cause of Fire at Mount Zion AME Church Ruled ‘Natural’

By Phil Helsel and Pete Williams, NBC News

Investigators in South Carolina said Thursday that a fire at a historic black church this week was most likely sparked by natural causes and that no criminal intent was found.


The State Law Enforcement Division, or SLED, said the investigation into the blaze that gutted Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church on Tuesday was conducted with help of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as local officials.

“Based upon the scene examination, the fire debris analysis, witness statements and a lightning strike report, the cause of the fire was best classified as natural,” SLED said in a statement, adding that the investigation is closed.

Tuesday’s fire occurred in an atmosphere of heightened tensions in South Carolina after a white gunman opened fire at another historic black church, Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, and killed nine people in what authorities have called a racially motivated attack

At least seven black churches have burned in the South since the massacre at Emanuel AME, authorities have said. Newman said three fires that have been investigated were determined to have been caused by natural or electrical causes.

“If in fact there is evidence to support hate crime charges in any one of these cases, the FBI, in coordination with the ATF and local authorities, will work closely with the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to bring those forward,” Newman said.

Mount Zion has been the target of racial hatred in the past. The church, founded more than 110 years ago, was burned to the ground on June 20, 1995, by two members of the Ku Klux Klan.

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Donald Trump says African-American youths ‘have no spirit’

By Kiran Moodley, the Independent

On the same day that a New Hampshire poll put Donald Trump second in the race to be the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2016, the New York mogul said that African-American youths had “no spirit” and blamed Barack Obama for dividing the country.

Mr. Trump was talking at the annual dinner of the Maryland GOP on 23 June, which state officials said would draw in over $100,000 for the party in the Northeastern state.

Talking with reporters, he spoke briefly about race relations in the country following the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina last week and after President Obama discussed the matter with Marc Maron, with the country’s first black president using the “N-word”.

Mr Trump said that African-American youth had reached “a point where they’ve just about never done more poorly, there’s no spirit, there’s killings on an hourly basis virtually in places like Baltimore and Chicago and many other places.”…

“There’s no spirit. I thought that President Obama would be a great cheerleader for the country. And he’s really become very divisive.”

Mr Trump was speaking as a Suffolk Unversity poll in New Hampshire put him in second place behind former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the brother of former President George W Bush and the son of the 41st President, George H W Bush…

Mr Trump also commented on the US-Mexico border, relaying a conversation he had had with some Mexican waiters, telling the audience that he gets on really well with people from south of the border.

“I love Mexicans. I’ve had tremendous relationships with people in Mexico. But we need a strong border. I said we need a wall!”

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Woman Removes Confederate Flag In Front Of South Carolina Statehouse

By Hilary Hanson, the Huffington Post

A woman scaled a flagpole in front of the South Carolina Statehouse on Saturday morning and removed the Confederate battle flag.

“We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer,” Bree Newsome, 30, said in a statement released by activist group Blackbird, which was helping out with press but did not facilitate the event itself. “We can’t continue like this another day. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.”

Newsome now faces a charge of defacing monuments on state Capitol grounds, The Associated Press reported. The offense carries a possible fine of up to $5,000 and up to three years in prison.

Newsome did not act alone, but was part of a larger group of activists who wanted to see the flag come down. Newsome, who is from North Carolina, is black, but the group she is part of is multiracial, according to the release.

She made it about halfway up the pole when authorities commanded her to come down, but she continued to go up and remove the flag, which was padlocked in place. She was arrested, along with a man and a woman who accompanied her to the Statehouse grounds in Columbia. James Ian Tyson, 30, is facing the same charges as Newsome, according to the AP.

The flag was raised up again about 45 minutes later.

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White Supremacists More Dangerous To America Than Foreign Terrorists, Study Says

By Julia Craven, the Huffington Post

Nine people were added to a long list of lives taken by domestic terrorism when Dylann Roof allegedly began shooting inside a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17.


At least 48 people have been killed stateside by right-wing extremists in the 14 years since since the September 11 attacks — almost twice as many as were killed by self-identified jihadists in that time, according to a study released Wednesday by the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C., research center. The study found that radical anti-government groups or white supremacists were responsible for most of the terror attacks.

The data counters many conventional thoughts on what terrorism is and isn’t. Since Sept. 11, many Americans attribute terror attacks to Islamic extremists instead of those in the right wing. But the numbers don’t back up this popular conception, said Charles Kurzman, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kurzman is co-authoring a study with David Schanzer of Duke University, set to be published Thursday, that asks police departments to rank the three biggest threats from violent extremism in their jurisdiction.

Law enforcement agencies reported they were more concerned about the activities of right-wing extremist groups than Islamic extremists in their jurisdictions (about 74 percent versus 39 percent) due to the “menacing” rhetoric used by some of these groups — and that they were training officers to take action when they saw signs of potentially violent individuals, Kurzman and Schanzer found…

Accused domestic terrorist Dylann Roof.

Accused domestic terrorist Dylann Roof.

The accused Charleston shooter is currently being investigated under domestic terrorism charges by the Department of Justice — a move that acknowledges the long history of anti-black terrorist attacks

And while most officially acknowledged anti-black terrorism cases occurred during the eras of slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow, as recent news demonstrate, this type of terrorism is still an ongoing concern.

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Thousands Walk Hand In Hand To Show Support For Mother Emanuel Church

By Sebastian Murdock & Donovan X. Ramsey, the Huffington Post

On Sunday evening, hours after Emanuel A.M.E. Church opened its doors for the first service following the killing of nine of its congregants Wednesday, thousands in Charleston took to the streets in a show of support and solidarity.


A line of people packed Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, stretching more than two miles from the town of Mount Pleasant to the city of Charleston. Observers on the bridge, and thousands more at the base, joined hands to create a “unity chain,” then held a moment of silence that lasted five minutes in honor of the fallen.

Last Wednesday, 21-year-old Dylann Roof joined a Bible study at Emanuel A.M.E. Police say just an hour into the service, Roof removed a gun from a small pack he was wearing and began shooting. When the gunfire ceased, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Susie Jackson, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney and Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr. were dead.

Police estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 took part in Sunday’s gathering, according to the Post and Courier. Cars drove slowly past the bridge, taking in the sight and honking horns in solidarity as people chanted “Charleston strong!”…

Strangers could be seen holding one another. Many held handmade signs promoting peace, love and unity.


“Forgiveness is key to unity,” one sign read. “We stand united,” said another.

Many in the crowd expressed gratitude through tears at the way the city had handled the senseless violence. Others handed out cold water bottles to those battling the evening’s sticky humidity.

“I think that the victims of the church shooting are really being honored in such a positive, positive way,” said Elizabeth Gearhart, 18. ”It’s such a great example for the rest of the world to see.”

Jill Johnson, 55, walked through the crowd with a copy of the Post and Courier raised above her head, with the headline: “Hate won’t win.”

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